Published on October 9th, 2012 | by Matthew Stevenson0
Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce.
Lawless, based on the historical novel ‘The Wettest County in the World’ tells the story of The Bondurant Brothers, a family of bootleggers who became legendary for selling moonshine throughout America’s Prohibition in the 1930’s. Whilst displaying beautiful cinematography, a great soundtrack and thrilling performances across the board, it is a shame that it never really finds anything original to add to the well-worn genre of American gangster films.
The film is full of interesting characters, yet constantly focuses most of its attention on the youngest of the brothers, Jack, played by Shia LaBeouf. Whilst he puts in a great performance it is a shame to see the more interesting characters only briefly fleshed out, such as Jessica Chastain as Maggie, a woman haunted by her past who begins working for the brothers, and Gary Oldman as a fellow gangster with a role so small you could almost call it a cameo, even though his introduction is one of the most exciting scenes early in the film. Tom Hardy, as always steals the show as Forrest, the tough leader of the Bondurant Brothers, managing to inject some much needed humour into the role whilst maintaining an intense ‘do not fuck with me’ attitude, and Guy Pearce is perfect as the psychopathically evil Special Deputy Charley Rakes.
As mentioned above, the film has been adapted from a historical novel, which interestingly was written by the grandson of the youngest of the Three Bondurant Brothers, Jack. This may explain why the film constantly pulls focus from the other characters to less interesting story of Jack and both his quest to romance the local preachers daughter, played by Mia Wasikowska, and prove himself to his older brothers. The film is shot beautifully with some stunning locations, and one aspect of the film that is sure to get people talking is it’s handling of violence. Whilst there are not any big action sequences in the film, it is littered with bursts of intense violence that will shock most with their unexpected brutality, and these scenes easily become the most thrilling aspect of the film, eliciting shocked sighs and squirms of discomfort from the audience.
Overall, Lawless is a film that despite having all of the necessary elements to make a classic never manages to fully impress. It brings together a great cast and talent behind the scenes yet fails to bring anything new to the screen, and whilst it is still a good film and certainly worth seeing, you can’t help but feel disappointed that the film never tries anything to make it stand out from the countless other gangster films that have come before it. If you are a fan of crime/gangster films, there is plenty to love here and the film still manages to do enough to thoroughly entertain, despite struggling to reach its full potential.